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RINS Volunteers have been continuously monitoring raptor nests in Utah since 2000.

Early Years

The Raptor Inventory Nest Survey (RINS) began out of a need to continue monitoring nesting raptors in Northern Utah. Due to funding issues in 2000, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) biologists were no longer able to monitor nests in Tooele, Rich, Utah, and Juab counties. In May of 2000, Dr. Dawn W. Sebesta, whoo had been volunteering with the BLM biologists, thought that volunteer citizen scientists could easily provide the resources to monitor these historic nests.  Dawn began to enlist volunteers to assist with monitoring nests across Utah’s West Desert and Rich County. Although the volunteer effort began late in the nesting season, Dawn and four teams of volunteers managed to check 448 nests across the West Desert, finding 70 active nests.

The next year in 2001, Dawn Sebesta enlisted more volunteers and formally established the Raptor Inventory Nest Survey to continue nest monitoring efforts and expanded the BLM nest inventory in the West Desert and Rich County in northern Utah. An effort which has continued to this day so long as volunteers continue to show up, willing to help.

The numbers of RINS volunteers and raptor nests discovered and monitored continued to expand in 2002 and 2003. In addition to nest monitoring, Dawn Sebesta banded an increasing number of nestlings, focusing on ferruginous hawks and burrowing owls. Banding efforts allowed biologists to track nesting productivity and the journey banded birds took throughout their lives. In 2003, Dawn Sebesta was recognized by the Utah State BLM Office with the State Director’s “Public Land Partner Award” for establishing the largest volunteer effort undertaken for the BLM in Utah. The award is the BLM’s  d highest recognition for a volunteer.

On October 4, 2003, Dawn Sebesta and another RINS volunteer, Jim Messinger, died in a light plane crash while surveying raptor nests in the West Desert. Following this horrific tragedy, three RINS volunteers formed the RINS Working Group as a leadership transition team to continue keeping RINS viable. The RINS Working Group was composed  of three volunteers, Kay Millar, Robyn MacDuff and John Stratton who coordinated and accomplished the work necessary to ensure RINS could keep moving forward. As 2003 came to a close, an office for RINS was established in Sandy, Utah. 

RINS Working Group

As the monitoring season got underway in 2004, many volunteers took on extra areas to monitor, helping to fill the gap left in the wake of Dawn’s passing. The BLM once again recognized RINS’ efforts with the “National Volunteer Award” presented to the Raptor Inventory Nest Survey Group for “Making a Difference on Public Lands.” The award was presented on June 3, 2004 at the Department of the Interior Headquarters in Washington, D.C. In August 2004, the “Take Pride in America Award” was also awarded and presented to RINS.

In 2005, Robyn MacDuff began overseeing the RINS project. Kay Millar decided to further develop the raptor field studies on the Deep Creek Mountains, an important area for raptor study for the project John Stratton continued on as a volunteer. 

RINS Embraces Technology

In 2006, work began on a website for the general public to access and learn about what RINS is all about. Additional plans were underway to create an online data entry portal for volunteers to enter their monitoring data. Two computer software engineers were involved in exploring various technologies available. Once the technologies were chosen, work began utilizing the engineers plus a business analyst.  It would take three years to complete the RINS Online online data entry portal while everyone involved worked on the tool in between their full-time jobs, attending college, and running RINS. RINS Online was officially launched in August 2009 and improved efficiency with data entry, storage, and reporting. The platform quickly allowed the RINS dataset to become the largest database for nesting birds of prey in Utah.

Expanding Scope and New Partnerships

In 2008, the Salt Lake Field Office of the BLM reorganized and became the Salt Lake District Office (SLDO), which incorporated the Fillmore Field Office (FFO) under the SLDO management umbrella. RINS began to monitor and report on the raptor nests within Fillmore’s management area in 2008. RINS continues to work on building a group of dedicated, ongoing volunteers that live in or around the Fillmore area.

In 2009, RINS volunteers continued to collect a baseline of annual raptor data; however, additional surveys were made for the Mona to Oquirrh transmission power line corridor for Rocky Mountain Power. RINS’ efforts contributed important data to the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) document ensuring adjustments were made along the corridor to avoid viable nesting areas.

RINS was invited to participate in the Utah Legacy Raptor Project. Established in 2009, the project was a multi-year study regarding the effects that invasive species, such as cheatgrass, has on the prey base that burrowing owls, ferruginous hawks, and golden eagles require for nesting productivity and success. The study involved organizations and individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds including the Department of Defense (Dugway Proving Grounds and Hill Air Force Base), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Utah Department of Natural Resources, HawkWatch International, Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management, Utah State University, Brigham Young University, and private individuals. Details and procedures were initially established with the study’s activities being performed in 2011.

In 2010, RINS volunteers continued monitoring raptor nests throughout the West Desert and Rich County for the Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Salt Lake (SLDO) and Fillmore (FFO) field offices. In the Fillmore area, both active and historic nests have been visited with data recorded utilized to guide decisions on wind farms and ATV races, two popular activities within the Fillmore BLM’s management area. 

 A comprehensive project was accomplished in 2010, incorporating historic nest data from field studies performed by various biologists prior to the year 2000. This project involved collecting and validating historic records and data, which represented a significant addition to RINS’ large dataset that volunteers had spent 11 years accumulating.e The data serves to illustrate where raptors have nested over a much longer period of time. It also provided a better understanding of the changes and constants in terms of habitat conditions and nesting locations and choices of the birds. 

Non-Profit Status

As 2010 came to a close, it became clear RINS needed the structure of a non-profit entity to manage the financial aspects of the organization. In early 2011, the paperwork to form a non-profit organization was completed and filed. . The application to receive a not-for-profit status a 501(c)(3) was approved by the Internal Revenue Service of the United States in October 2010. Through this process, RINS solidified its mission and became eligible for grants and offers individuals the opportunity to make a tax-deductible contribution.

RINS Expands Across Utah

In 2012, Box Elder County was added to the scope of raptor monitoring for RINS to cover, followed closely with the additions of the Vernal, Price and Moab BLM Field Offices.  A massive volunteer recruitment and training effort was undertaken in order to  begin monitoring across 19 counties inf Utah with the addition of Box Elder, Duchesne, Daggett, Uintah, Carbon, Emery, Sanpete, San Juan and Grand counties. RINS presented the citizen science accomplishments of our volunteers to the Utah Chapter of The Wildlife Society in Springdale, Utah on [date].

In September 2013, RINS was again recognized for its continued partnership and contributions to the BLM by Utah State BLM Director Juan Palma. RINS continued making great strides in getting the new areas covered by volunteers from across Utah. During this time the majority of the available areas containing suitable raptor habitat were assigned to volunteers in Tooele, Rich, and Juab counties. RINS recruited 48 new team leaders in 2013, an increase of 94% from the previous year’s existing base of fifty-one team leaders. 

In 2014, RINS had over 300 volunteers monitoring afield resulting in record numbers of nesting raptors being reported across 19 of Utah’s 29 counties. This effort marked amazing progress on all areas RINS monitored across Utah. RINS was invited to participate in the Utah Eagle Working Group in 2014.  The working group consisted of organizations and agencies coming together in an effort to identify and rectify threats to eagles in Utah.

RINS Continues to Protect Utah’s Nesting Raptors

RINS Volunteers have been continuously monitoring raptor nests in Utah since 2000. For 23 years, RINS volunteers have produced $6,706,817 of total effort to safeguard nesting birds of prey. RINS manages the largest raptor database in the state of Utah with contributions from over 200 volunteers annually. The organization continues its efforts to coordinate with various wildlife organizations and agencies across the state of Utah to support efforts to protect raptors and their habitats. 

RINS continues to recruit new volunteers, train and support both new and returning volunteers in an effort to monitor and record pertinent data on the raptors that nest in Utah and building our volunteer base to cover new territories across the state of Utah. The organization continues its work and dedication with helping raptors in Utah through data collection, education, and collaboration to improve and develop procedures and protocols that protect raptors and their habitats. Ensuring vigorous and successful populations for years to come.